Viasna activists attend FIDH Congress in Johannesburg
FIDH, together with its member organisations, Lawyers for Human Rights in South Africa, DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights in Botswana and Zimrights in Zimbabwe, is holding, under the high patronage of Desmond Tutu, its 39th Congress in Johannesburg from 23 to 27 August 2016. This unique event will be attended by the 178 FIDH member organisations, gathering more than 400 human rights defenders from around the world. Among them are representatives of the Human Rights Center "Viasna", Ales Bialiatski and Valiantsin Stefanovich.
“It is the third time, after Dakar in 1997 and Casablanca in 2001 that FIDH has decided to hold its Congress in Africa. We didn’t choose South Africa by chance. This country plays a growing and key role at the continental level and at the same time has to cope with major internal challenges,” stated Karim Lahidji, FIDH President and added, ”Organising our Congress in Johannesburg means paying tribute to the South African civil society which, in a country marked by decades of apartheid, showed the courage and perseverance to restore the rule of law and which is still fighting to consolidate its achievements”.
The year 2016 is also the African Year of Human Rights and a year of important anniversaries for South Africa - the first democratic constitution 20 years ago, the Soweto revolt 40 years ago, and the women’s march against apartheid 60 years ago – but also for Bostwana - 50th Independence Anniversary. FIDH also will be paying tribute to these struggles and victories for human rights.
The Congress will begin on 23 August with a 2-day Forum – open to the press and the civil society –entitled: Fighting back for human rights: Enabling a vision, implementing a strategy and ensuring the space for civil society as the cornerstone of human development.
The theme of the Forum was decided upon, after the following assessment: through their work and efforts, civil societies have contributed to increasing the respect for human rights throughout the world, but for the past few years, they have been attacked on all fronts: stigmatisation, judicial harassment, threats, assaults, assassinations. These attacks go beyond people, for they target the universality of human rights, a universality that is being called into question by states that allude to specific cultural mores, the fight against terrorism, or economic interests. The purpose of the Forum will be to provide an opportunity for civil society representatives from around the world to meet and discuss how they cope with these attacks. It will bring out the extraordinary capacity of the world movement of human rights defenders to resist and fight.
Over 100 representatives of NGOs from Southern Africa have been invited to participate in the Forum. This region is often described as one of the most stable on the African continent. Yet it is faced with major challenges that are related to security, equality, and protection of human rights. In several countries repressive measures have been implemented to still the civil society while corruption and political racketeering contribute to increasing socio-economic disparities, and violence and discrimination are often directed at women, migrants and LGBTI persons. To respond to these difficult situations, the NGOs of Southern Africa have devised strategies and created tools to protect against arbitrariness and impunity.
FIDH Congress will be dedicated to all human rights defenders detained solely for their activities, including Nabeel Rajab, FIDH Deputy Secretary General (Bahrain), Abdolfattah Soltani (Iran), Razan Zeitouneh (Syria) to mention just a few.
The program of the Forum is available here.
The internal congress will be held from 25 to 27 August, following the Forum. During this important event for the NGOs, action strategies will be discussed and FIDH International Board, – composed of 1 President, 1 Treasurer, 15 Vice Presidents and 5 Secretaries General, – will be elected.
For more information about the Forum and the Congress, please visit: https://2016congress.fidh.org/
Since 2004, Viasna has been FIDH's only member organization in Belarus. In 2007, the NGO's head, Ales Bialiatski, became FIDH's first vice-president from Eastern Europe and has been twice (in 2010 and 2013) re-elected to this post.